Tag: Feature

Playing a long Innings

Playing a long Innings

History of our planet proves that adapting to change is the only way to survive. Those who do not or cannot adapt, become extinct. This is true of human beings, animals and even brands. Brands that do not change disappear from the marketplace… and the consumer’s mind. While many brands have survived for a long time, in the recent years the pace of change has increased manifold and consequently the time available to respond to the changes has shrunk considerably. The problem with many of us is that we think of future as faraway. The future is here. It’s not some event that will take place five, 10 or 20 years from now. It is something that is as close as tomorrow. The pace of change in the recent years has shortened the distance between yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In preparing your brands to survive into the future, it might help to look to the past and learn from it. The first real "brands" began to emerge at around the same time as marketing began emerging as a serious business management discipline way back in the late 19th and early 20th century. By the mid-1900s, marketing had already established itself as a central business function and the four Ps became the tactical tools of marketers. Over the next 30-40 years, the strategic development of marketing as a business function has evolved constantly to adapt to continuous and discontinuous market changes. Concepts such as segmentation, differentiation and competitive advantage emerged and proved extremely useful to marketers in successfully introducing and establishing brands.

But things have been different in the last decade or so. Technology and product breakthroughs, discovery of newer markets (and stagnation of older ones), rising incomes, and telecom and media proliferation require newer and innovative marketing approaches. Because the time to react to competition is shorter than ever before and there is little, if any, scope for blunders. While earlier, a brand could get away with some slip ups, the consumers of today are unforgiving and punish brands that do not live up to their promise by shifting their loyalties to other brands. No wonder so many brands of yesteryears have just disappeared from the shelves. It seems like only yesterday when cars in India meant Ambassador and Premier Padmini; shoes meant Bata; cooking oil meant Dalda or Postman, and colour TVs meant BPL or Videocon. Most of these brands are nowhere close to their positions 10 years ago. Some of them have completely disappeared.

On the other hand, there have been brands that have stood the test of time. Changing consumer preferences, cultural transformation, substitute products, economic recessions, technological obsolescence and many such problems notwithstanding, these brands have been quick to adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics and consumer demand, and grown consistently. These brands have shown what is known as brand resilience.

What is Brand Resilience?

In the year 2000, Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan rose like the proverbial phoenix. After a long hiatus from Bollywood and a disastrous shot at going corporate that left him bankrupt, Bachchan came back with a vengeance. Today he has not only paid off his debts, but is the busiest star in the film industry, delivering more hits in the year than any other star and has endorsed/is endorsing more than 20 brands. He was also voted as star of the millennium in an online poll by BBC. Brand Amitabh Bachchan is a great example of a brand that possesses resilience.

Brands like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Levi’s, Harley-Davidson, Rolex, Kodak, Nikon, Sony as well as home-grown brands like Thums Up, The Times of India, Parachute, Onida and Amul are resilient brands as they have all been around for many decades during which markets and consumers have both changed beyond recognition. Many of these brands have survived recessionary trends and adverse market conditions and yet have managed to retain their leadership positions in their markets. In fact, many of the world’s top 100 brands are over 100 years old.

The quest for brand resilience

Brand resilience can be compared with a healthy person with strong immunity. A healthy person fights of diseases by practising healthy habits like eating right, following an exercise regime, maintaining hygiene and consulting a doctor when sickness strikes. Similarly, a brand builds resilience by following sound marketing practises, maintaining a fresh appeal, and reinventing itself to remain relevant. Here are a few suggestions on how to build strong, resilient brands.

Survival of the quickest
Brand that don’t respond promptly to a challenge often perish just as brands that are quick to respond get brownie points from the consumer in the form of loyalty. In 1995, when Sony launched PlayStation, the first CD-based video game console, Nintendo and Sega were both unprepared and took time to react. They paid heavily for their sluggishness by losing market to a new entrant like Sony. Today, PlayStation is the market leader by far and also the cash cow for Sony. Nokia, on the other hand, was quick to respond to Sony-Ericsson’s camera phones. Although Sony-Ericsson’s phones became a hit, Nokia launched its own versions of camera phone quickly, ensuring that its market leadership remained intact.

Maintain Consumer Connect
Resilient brands acknowledge that consumers of different generations have different values and ideologies. These brands also know that consumer preferences evolve over time. Liril and Colgate are FMCG brands that have been around for decades and have successfully connected with the consumers of many successive generations. The recent repositioning of Liril (with Aloe Vera) is a case in point. Adding sex appeal to the brand and introducing a male character in its advertising is a marked shift from the age old “waterfall” premise that Liril was associated with.

Remain Loyal to Core Value Proposition
Resilient brands have a personality with which consumers identify them. Sony has always stood for sharp, leading edge technology. The recent repositioning notwithstanding, Liril still stands for freshness. Coca-Cola has quenched thirst for over 100 years and its Thanda Matlab Coca Cola campaign only reiterates that proposition. Colgate means strong teeth, fresh breath. Mercedes still stands for top class and BMW for pioneering engineering. Brands build resilience by taking a stance and sticking to it. They remain loyal their original values and their consumers remain loyal to them.

Kodak Brand’s Resilience From Building Strong Brands by David Aaker

The Kodak Instant Camera (introduced in 1976 to compete with Polaroid) had captured one-third of the instant camera market after one year. However, the company was forced to discontinue the product in 1986 after a successful patent encroachment suit by Polaroid. Kodak’s forced withdrawal of a product from a market it virtually owned is about as bad as it gets. Many brands would have been irrevocably tainted by such a calamity. The fact that Kodak survived this debacle is a tribute to its innate brand strength and to its handling of a painful situation. Every camera owner was invited to return their Kodak Instant Camera in exchange for either a Kodak Disk Camera and film, fifty dollars’ worth of other Kodak products, or a share of Kodak stock. Kodak thus used the incident and the surrounding communication opportunities to reinforce Kodak associations and to support the Disk Camera.

From Building Strong Brands by David Aaker

Why bother about resilience?

Because resilience pays rich dividends in the following ways:  

Provides Longevity
This one is the most apparent benefit. Resilience implies staying power, which translates into l
ongevity. As mentioned earlier, resilient brands survive many generations of human life. Indeed, some have been around for a couple of hundred years. The Times of India was established in 1838. After 168 years, it is the largest selling English daily in the world. That it’s published from India, a country where English is not a native language, tells a lot about the resilience of the brands.

Helps in tiding over adversities
Brands that are resilient are better prepared to survive an unforeseen eventuality, both internal and external to the company. Kartikeya Kompella, business head of a leading DM agency in Chennai says, " Tough times don’t last but tough brands do." In 1982, when other car manufacturers around the world suffered disastrous sales, Mercedes continued to do well and often sold up to 50 per cent more than other European competitors.

Offers scope for market leverage
Resilient brands can try experiments in the market that could be too risky for other brands. In April 1985, when Coca Cola repositioned its flagship brand as New Coke, which was not well received by the market in spite of blind tests showing that New Coke tasted better than Pepsi and earlier Coke. There were protests by a section of Coke fans and Pepsi took advantage of the situation by taking digs at Coke. Coca Cola’s sales had begun to dwindle and the company was forced to reintroduce the old formula drink, which it called Coca Cola Classic. By the end of the year, Classic Coke was substantially outselling both New Coke and Pepsi, putting the company back into the number-one position, which it has enjoyed ever since. Coca Cola got away with its experimentation because the brand was resilient.

Survives onslaught of competition
A brand that has been around for years and has kept its promise with the consumer can often fight even heavyweight competition. Think about Thums Up, which was bought over by Coca Cola on its re-entry to India. Between the mega battle of Pepsi and Coke, Thums Up was grossly ignored by its new owners. In spite of this neglect, Thums Up outperformed both Coca Cola and Pepsi to remain market leader and forced Coke’s management to take the brand seriously.

Sometimes, brands only pretend to be resilient but are not. In times of crisis, such brands often try and take refuge in advertising but usually fail. In A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury points out that no amount of advertising can build or save a shallow brand. “Advertising is the megaphone, not the message,” he says. Many of you will recall that BPL was one of the top three colour TV brands in India in the early 1990s. When crisis struck in the form of entry of Korean Brands, even Amitabh Bachchan’s endorsement could not save BPL TVs from perishing. Cadbury on the other hand used Amitabh effectively to counter the serious threat from the “worm” controversy and is today back to the top. Cadbury was resilient; BPL was not.


It is wise to know that resilience is not infinite. The advantages of possessing brand resilience are many. But that does not mean that strong brands cannot falter and fall by the wayside. Even resilience has an expiry date. But the good news is that brands can get this date extended substantially by remaining loyal to their original value proposition and by being true to their consumers.

When in Rome…

When in Rome…

When developing nations like India began to open up their economies to foreign direct investments, many economists argued that rich multinationals will swamp these markets and liberalisation will sound the death knell of local brands. More than a decade later, nothing of the sort has happened. In fact several large companies have failed to make a major dent in the Indian market, leave alone acquire leadership positions. Many who entered with a mindset of “might is right” had to alter their strategies dramatically. Clearly, even as globalisation is the favourite buzzword of economists and politicians alike, business managers and marketers around the world have discovered, often painstakingly, that the world is far from being one homogeneous market.

When in India, do as the Indians do…
Centuries ago, in 387 AD, when St Augustine arrived in Milan he observed that unlike the Church at Rome, the Milan Church did not fast on Saturday. He consulted St Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who replied: “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.”1 Eventually this comment metamorphosed into “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. The bishop’s words have since then become an oft-quoted piece of advice. And the advice is perhaps most relevant to marketing professionals of the 21st century.

Product managers from MNCs will do well to commit this adage to memory, especially if you market your products to a heterogeneous country like India. For some time now, India’s appeal as a market has increased manifold. And why not? The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts an average of 6.9 per cent real GDP growth for India from 2003 to 2008. Combine this with a GDP growth that is more than double that of the United States and the United Kingdom during the past decade and you know why India is one of the world’s most promising and fastest-growing economies, and why multinational companies are eagerly investing here. Yet the performance of these multinationals has been not been consistent. While some of them have managed to decode the Indian Consumer Code, many others have failed to create a dent in the market, leave alone significant market shares – and this despite the huge investments of time and capital.

Experts concur that one of the primary reasons these companies have failed to take off in India, in spite of being successful in other nations, is because they did not localise their product offering.

Merely bringing a tried and tested product from another country need not succeed in a country like India, which has its own idiosyncrasies. Any strategy must be rooted in a detailed understanding of the customer and market conditions. Companies that have resisted the lure of replicating their global product offerings, and have instead spent time and energy understanding the Indian market, are the ones that have managed to make their mark. India’s purchasing power lies in the middle and lower income groups and a company that ignores these high-volume segments may have to sacrifice significant revenues and profits. Targeting these segments requires that the company understands the buying psychology of the typical price-conscious Indian consumer.

A new country, especially a diverse one like India, should not be treated as merely a new market where you extend your existing business and marketing models. It should be taken as seriously as launching a new business, with an exhaustive business and marketing plan. The management of an MNC will do well to keep in mind the following considerations while developing their marketing mix for India:

1. Product
Just because your product offering has been successful elsewhere it does not mean that it will be lapped up by people from another country, who believe in a different set of values, hail from different cultures and have their own tastes and preferences. Real Value vacuumisers, launched in the mid-1990s, bombed despite the product being very effective in what it claimed to do. What Real Value failed to consider was that Indians like their food freshly made and will never be comfortable with the idea of storing food in containers. Yet there are companies like MTV India, Nokia and McDonald’s that understood the local preferences of their Indian consumers and modified their offerings accordingly.

The Taste of India
Local flavour Nestle, the global food major, realised that it is hard to neglect the ethnic Indian food market. According to KSA Technopak, this market is estimated to be to the tune of Rs 6,50,000 crore in India. After finding success in the packaged curd segment, Nestle India is now in the process of test marketing ‘Lassi’ in Maharashtra thereby competing with players like Amul and Britannia. The ethnic Indian food market includes dairy products, ethnic snack foods and staples. Nestle India has also joined hands with South based retail major Nilgiris to co-brand a whole range of dairy products like dahi, paneer, ghee and milk.
Source: Do Indians Make the White Elephants Dance! By AGV Narayan

2. Advertising and Promotions
According to one study, customers are four times more likely to make a purchase when they are addressed in their native language. Localising an advertising or marketing message is crucial to the success of the brand. Just like while finalising their product offering, a marketer must understand the deep-rooted values and its culture to ensure that their communication does not offend their sensibilities. Coca Cola and Pepsi realised this early and Indianised their advertising by roping in Indian cricketing and film celebrities, which the Indian audiences relate to easily. When Kellogg’s launched in India, they tried to position themselves as lighter, and therefore, better than parathas. It backfired, because parathas are a habit with Indians, a part of their lifestyle. Kellogg’s learnt the hard way that it can be an interesting addition to the breakfast options in India, but can never replace parathas and idlis.

3. Pricing Strategy
There’s no denying the fact that Indians are a price-sensitive, value-conscious lot. Brands that have failed to take this into account have faced problems. On the other hand, companies who have responded to the price-sensitivity of the Indian market have done well. (See Box Kellogg v/s Paratha and Idli).

Kellogg v/s Paratha and Idli

The case of Kellogg, the US cereal giant, demonstrates that it is not only local competitors who can sense the need for mass marketing and deliver it. Kellogg, lured by the prospect of a billion breakfast eaters, ventured into India in the mid-1990s. Like many of its counterparts, Kellogg’s market entry strategy proved unsuccessful and, after three years in the market, sales stood at an unimpressive $10 million. Indian consumers were not sold on breakfast cereals. Most consumers either prepared breakfast from scratch every morning or grabbed some biscuits with tea at a roadside tea stall. Advertising positions common in the west, such as the convenience of breakfast cereal, did not resonate with the mass market. Segments of the market that did find the convenience positioning appealing were unable to afford the international prices of Kellogg’s brands. Disappointing results led the company to reexamine its approach. Eventually, Kellogg realigned its marketing to suit local market conditions: the company introduced a range of breakfast biscuits under the Chocos brand name. Priced at Rs 5 for a 50-gram pack (and with extensive distribution coverage that includes roadside tea stalls), they are targeted at the mass market and are expected to generate large sale volumes.
Source: Strategies for Entering and Developing International Markets by David Arnold

Almost every successful MNC worth its salt has altered its pricing strategy in India. McDonald’s current campaign in India promoting their “Happy Price Menu” shows how critical pricing is to successful operations in this country. Sony Corporation, known to believe in premium pricing, has launched its low price, feature stripped variants in the highly competitive consumer electronics industry. Ford’s Ikon is positioning itself as a sedan available at the price of a small car.

4. Distribution
As stated earlier, India’s markets revolve around the middle and low-income segments. These segments reside largely in small towns and villages spread across the length and breath of our country. Geographically, India is not only diverse, but it is also the seventh largest in terms of sheer size. By 2007, middle and high-income households in rural India are expected to grow from 80 million to 111 million, while in urban India they are expected to grow from 46 million to 59 million. Therefore, the absolute size of markets in rural India is expected to be double that of urban India. Moreover, different regions in India are as good as different markets, each with its own peculiarities. MNCs often find it extremely difficult to manage this diversity.

HLL: Here, There, Everywhere

HLL’s key strength in a vast country such as ours has been its unmatched distribution reach through a stockist network of 7,000 and a retail reach of over 1mn outlets. It is the only company, which distributes its products to more than 50,000 villages. Innovative programmes like Project Bharat have been undertaken which aim to make available to every consumer in the remotest corner of the country, products that meet his day-to-day requirements. HLL’s management is known for its marketing savvy. It has over the years studied and understood the Indian markets as no other MNC player has. It has adapted its products to suit the Indian tastes. A lot of wars have been played and won on the price front, acknowledging that the Indian consumer is extremely price sensitive. The financial strength to cross subsidise new initiatives with existing profitable businesses has enabled the company to achieve its zeal of being the dominating player in all markets that it enters into.
Source: Indiainfoline.com

FMCG MNCs such as Colgate-Palmolive and Hindustan Lever Ltd have always known the importance of rural and semi urban markets in India and have strong distribution networks. Their success in India can be largely attributed to their widespread distribution networks.

Conclusion: Building global brands in local markets

So how does one go about building a global brand with so many local considerations? Marieke de Mooij, president of Cross Cultural Communications Company and author of Consumer Behavior and Culture: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising answers, “A global brand is one which shares the same strategic principles, positioning and marketing in every market throughout the world, although the marketing mix may vary. It carries the same name and logo. Its values are identical in all countries, and it has a substantial market share in all countries and a comparable brand loyalty.” Sony stands for technological edge and quality across the globe, though in India it fixed its price to suit the Indian market. Kellogg has changed its advertising positioning in India to focus on health instead of convenience. Coke’s Thanda Matlab Coca Cola is a unique positioning only for India. MNCs have so far been humming the “Think Global, Act Local” mantra. Perhaps its time for them to memorise a new mantra, “Think Local, Act Global.”

1. www.trivia-library.com
2. The Right Passage to India by Kuldeep P. Jain, Nigel A. S. Manson, and Shirish Sankhe, The McKinsey Quarterly, Web exclusive, February 2005
3. Strategies for Entering and Developing International Markets by David Arnold, Published by Financial Times Prentice Hall

A Special Evening

A Special Evening

Children have an amazing propensity to squeeze out joy from little pleasures of life. It’s delightful to see little kids enjoying themselves merrily – singing, dancing and generally having fun, oblivious to the world around them. And when the kids in question are physically/mentally challenged, belonging to the underprivileged strata of the society, it’s a sight to behold.

Nearly 140 underprivileged, special children had a time of their life on the evening of Saturday October 18, 2003. The children, students of Anand Dighe Jidd School in Thane, were celebrating Diwali amidst their family, friends and teachers at a programme organised specially for them. "Deepanjali" as the evening was called, was sponsored by the Thane Police Department, Rotaract Club of Thane North End and Lioness club of Upvan. Ironically, senior officials from Police Department and the TMC (which runs the Jidd School) were conspicuous by their absence.

The programme, which was organised in the specially created garden for students of Jidd School, lasted for about three hours. Dance and singing performances by children and adults were the highlights of the evening. In one performance, by the staff members of the school, a man dressed up as a village woman, and danced to the tune of folk song while the children laughed and clapped in joy. Interactive games of fortune allowed the audience to participate and win prizes. The live orchestra band added to the charm of the evening.

Towards the end of the show, the orchestra played many popular Hindi songs in a free-for-all dance show. Half the audience was up on the stage, including a few special children. It literally boggled the mind to see the jest with which the special children were dancing. One polio affected child, with barely any legs, was dancing energetically without any sign of discomfort, and enjoying every moment of it. He was literally jumping on a single foot for what seemed like ages, and seemed like he was over the moon. Another special child joined the band to play the drums – and he played wonderfully. The look on the children’s faces and the demand for more music and more dance made it clear that they just did not want the evening to end. In spite of the celebrations mood, the special children surprisingly maintained discipline and none of them needed to be guarded for causing disruptions. Afterwards, many guests, including this writer, were presented with beautiful paper roses made by the special students of Jidd School.

The ultimate delight for the children was the session of fireworks at the close of the show. The sparklers and explosives lit the sky up repeatedly, producing various colours, noises and effects; some breaking into colour bursts in the air and some displaying colours going up. Each successive burst was accompanied by grand cheers, sounds of roaring laughter interspersed with ecstatic oohs and aahs.

Among the people who graced the programme were Mayor Sharada Raut, TMC house speaker Eknath Shinde, Vijay Padwal from the Department of Sports and Culture, Sanjay More from the Education Department and many others. Group Leader of Shiv Sena in TMC, Anil Save who attended the programme said, "Jidd School holds a special place in our hearts. I know of no other Municipal Corporation anywhere in the country that organises such Diwali celebrations for the underprivileged special children. TMC is unique in that respect."

The principal of Jidd School, Shyamshree Bhonsle, when asked what drove her to organise such a programme, replied, "There is a need to deal with special children with greater creativity and sensitivity. Moreover, our students come from really poor families who may be so occupied with mere sustenance that they can hardly afford to think of celebrating festivals. By organising such a programme and inviting their families, we thought we could provide these children an opportunity to enjoy the festival just like we all do. They always look forward to such celebrations as they forget their daily pains, if only for a few hours." She was thankful to the many supporters of the school and sponsors who made it possible. She added, "I wish to personally thank all the well-wishers who contribute in their own way to run the school for the underprivileged children in need of special care."

Such was the evening’s effect that it caused our eyes to become moist with emotion. The joy on the faces of the special children overwhelmed our hearts and made us pray for them. It was a special evening by all counts, indeed.

To love or not to love

To love or not to love

Love is blind is a maxim that is perhaps as old as love itself, and if you’re like me, then you have, at some time or the other, wondered about that one. Well, it’s time to stop wondering, because a group of researchers have actually found that the old adage is not an empty cliche. A report on the BBC News website says that scientists have found that feelings of love lead to a “suppression of activity in the areas of the brain controlling critical thought”. Simply put, this means that when in love, the heart takes over the central command and the brain is relegated to playing the second fiddle. So, in effect, the heart deviates from its defined function of pumping blood and begins to order the brain around. On second thoughts, going by what the scientists have discovered about the brain’s digression, love might not just be blind but also deaf and dumb. Does that mean that when you fall in love, you become handicapped? Perhaps that’s where the term “lovesick” came from.

That love is blind might also explain the universal truth of “opposites attract”. Although the latter is supposed to describe the behaviour of magnetic substances, the phrase is commonly used to describe seemingly inexplicable human behaviour: The most beautiful girl always falls for the most ordinary looking boy. The fairest guy marries the darkest girl (in this case, we can’t say whether love is blind but it is positively colour-blind). And how can we forget the age-old, run-to-death love story of a rich-boy falling for poor girl or vice versa?

So science has proved that love makes you weaker in the brain. Does that mean we must stop loving? Of course not! Personally I think love is cool. Granted that according to research love subdues certain functions of the brain, but while doing so, it enriches the soul. And soul is all there is to life. What will you do with a brain without the soul? In fact, come to think of it, geniuses have always known the importance of love. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest music composers of all time and a genius in his own right, once said, “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” There.

“What about those disasters?” I hear you asking. Well, the truth is that those disasters are probably the result of the brain interfering in matters that are more to suited to the heart. Analyse love, and it will die, crippling you in the process. Leave love alone, and it will not only survive, it will flourish.

Not all Black

Not all Black

A few days ago, the principal of Jidd School for special children, Shyamashree Bhonsle, called this writer to relate her experience of watching the movie Black. So moved was she by the film’s depiction of a deaf-blind girl and her struggles that she fell short of words when praising the film. She said that as the principal and teacher of a school for special children, she found the movie particularly relevant. She also said that if she ever got an opportunity, she would strongly recommend the movie to parents of every physically or mentally challenged child because the film has many lessons for them. This discussion became the impetus of the free special screening of the movie at Cinewonder last Saturday.

Aastha Charitable Trust, Inner wheel club of Thane Hills and a few socially conscious residents got together and approached the management of Cinewonder Multiplex at Godbunder road requesting them to make available one of the enclosures for a free screening of the film. Cinewonder graciously agreed and last Saturday, about 250 parents of children suffering from mental or physical disabilities, and their teachers attended the special screening.

The film, which has beautifully portrayed the life of someone who lives in the world of silence and darkness, stirred most viewers into tears. Almost all parents who attended the screening felt that their, and the lives of their children, was reflected in the movie and admitted that the film touched a chord in their hearts. Many said that they were so caught up coping with the present that they had not considered many issues which may arise in time, which the film aptly illustrated. Some confessed at being harsh at times with their special children and vowed to be more considerate from now on. Judging by the reactions of viewers, Bhonsle’s objective was more than met.

Prior to the show was a small function, where Mayor Rajan Vichare presided as the chief guest. Also present at the show were N U Nayak, General Manager at the Helen Keller Institution for Deaf and Deaf Blind at New Mumbai and a few students including Zameer, the young man who was among those who taught Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan the nuances of communicating using the sign language. When Vichare asked Zameer what his contribution to the film Black was, the latter, being deaf and blind, replied in sign language (translated by a teacher), "I taught Rani to speak in sign language. I taught her to type on a Braille typewriter. I also taught her to use the white cane that blind persons use."

Thanks to the show, our city might soon get a school for blind and deaf-blind because mayor Vichare, noting that our city lacked such a school, announced that he will set one up, with the help of the teachers and other residents. Hiral Kanakia from Cinewonder too pledged her support for any cause relating to the special children. The special screening was thus special in more way than one.

Elementary, my dear Watson

Elementary, my dear Watson

JOHN WANAMAKER, pioneer of department stores in the US, once confessed that he knew that only half his advertising works; the problem was, he didn’t know which half. But today’s marketers cannot afford to makes such a confession. With marketing accountability becoming the motto of the top management, companies are increasingly looking for return on every marketing rupee spent. Developing effective marketing programmes is now the most important objective of marketing practitioners. But what exactly does the term marketing effectiveness imply?

Marketing is what marketing does

In Economics, we are taught that money has no inherent value. It is simply some printed paper or some numbers in the account books, unlike air, water and other basic necessities, which are indispensable to life. The value of money lies in the function of serving as a medium of exchange. Money, then, is what money does.

Twist this statement a bit – replace money with marketing and you get another universal truth: Marketing is what marketing does. Marketing tactics (including advertising, sales promotions, product development and brand management) are useless, unless they serve the purpose for which they were designed. That purpose, the endpoint of all marketing, is sales. No matter how brilliant your marketing strategy, if it does not ultimately result in sales, then it has failed.

EFFIEs and effectiveness

The New York American Marketing Association introduced the EFFIE Awards in 1968. Every year, EFFIE awards are given away to the most effective advertising campaign of the year in the respective country. Winning an EFFIE is about meeting a challenge and succeeding. In the words of a recent winner, “Effective advertising is advertising that sells; advertising that builds market share. The EFFIE award is the symbol of effective advertising and a tribute to the client and agency partnership that strives to create it.”

Of course, there are no absolutes in the world of marketing, no formula for marketing effectiveness. Every marketing challenge is unique and requires a distinctive approach. Having said that, there are certain best practices in marketing that have stood the test of time. These practices have a few factors in common, all of which are inter-connected and must be considered carefully before embarking upon any marketing programme. Surprisingly, these factors lead us back to the basics. So let’s re-visit these basic principles.

Essential Ingredients of a Successful Marketing Campaign

CONSUMER INSIGHT tops the charts. Every sensible marketer knows the importance of relevant consumer insight. The consumer is the king around whom the world of marketing revolves. And that makes consumer insight the single most important factor that shapes a successful marketing campaign.

According to Sunil Lulla, “Consumer insight is crucial if you want to be effective in your marketing efforts. Post that it’s the ideas and the execution that make all the difference. For instance, Sony Entertainment Television’s marketing campaign for ‘Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin’ was truly differentiated and innovative and was driven by a very strong consumer insight – that people tend to judge others by the way they look. Hence we launched a campaign, which never revealed the protagonist but only built her attributes and character.”

Lynn DeSouza adds: “I believe it’s hitting on the right consumer insight, which is an outcome of good planning and knowledge of consumer behaviour. Touching the right chord in the consumer’s mind and/or heart can actually lead to faster results requiring lower investments and ad budgets. The anti-FD campaign of Franklin Templeton is a great example of a hardworking consumer insight translated into interesting creative execution that required much lower ad spends than competitors to win great results for the company.”

But consumer insight alone is a necessary, and not a sufficient, condition. Rohit Srivastava says, “Consumer insights are interesting because they can often define the opportunity or create a strong leverage for marketing the brand; not as an end in themselves. However, a competitive leverage for an effective marketing program could come from other sources as well, such as a price or distribution advantage, a product edge or a service differentiator.”

THOROUGH PLANNING plays an instrumental role in the success of every marketing effort. Planning enables marketers to get a complete picture of where they stand, where they want to go, and the paths available to them to reach there. Planning helps obtain relevant data relating to consumer preferences, market and competitor activities, economic trends and prospects and other such information that is necessary to make informed decisions with respect to available options.

Srivastava says, “Planning to me is a very broad word and to that extent it will always be the key force behind marketing effectiveness. That’s because the world is too tough, too competitive for great results to be achieved as a matter of chance or luck. On the latter I always remember what one of the golfers is credited with saying: “the harder I practice, the luckier I get!”

Yet, if the basic assumptions about the market (and the consumer) are erroneous, the plan will fail. Consumer preferences are ever-changing and therefore, it is important to capture the pulse of the market in order to minimise the risk of failure. Here, focus helps.

FOCUS is a corollary of planning. It implies having clearly defined marketing goals and the strategies to reach those goals. Without focussed strategies, marketing efforts tend to become fragmented and the outcome is diluted. So does one bring focus into one’s marketing effort? Pranesh Misra answers, “Campaigns that follow the ‘Be clear – then clever’ principle tend to be more effective. Campaigns have to be clear about some critical issues: who is the key competitor, who is the core consumer, what is the key communication challenge, what is the insight driving the brief, and why the consumer should believe it. Being clear means having only one answer for each of these questions and not multiple ones. More that one answer means that the brief is not focussed.” Focussed inquiry will lead to identification of tasks at hand.

IDENTIFICATION entails discovering, and defining clearly, your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, weigh it against market opportunity and the competitive and economic threats, and finally develop possible strategies to exploit the opportunity and avoid the threats. Srivastava explains this comprehensively, “Within the broad ambit of planning, I look for one or more of the following, which are good drivers of marketing effectiveness:

1. Sharp diagnosis of what’s ailing the brand or the category. This is where most organisations falter. They are either blind to the core issue or too scared to face it. If the diagnosis is clear, it does not take rocket science to figure out what needs to be done to drive the desired results.

2. Sound understanding of the opportunity. Again as someone said, just because there is a gap in the market, does not mean there is a market in the gap! If the opportunity is genuine, large enough and well-defined, it significantly raises the odds that the brand will be effective in the marketplace.

3. A grasp of what it will take to exploit this opportunity. Marketing is a game of leverage; does your strategy give you enough leverage? A big leverage means you can move the market with disproportionately lower investments, at least relatively speaking.”

SUSTENANCE AND PERSEVERANCE are essential for a marketing programme to achieve lasting results. It is said that perseverance and failure cannot coexist. Failure happens when you quit. Planning, insights and focus will lead you nowhere, if the marketing activity is not sustained over a period of time. Srivastava says, “All of these can come to naught if they remain on paper or a PowerPoint slide. Marketing effectiveness calls for a sustained activation of the game plan.”

TIMING often deceives even savvy marketers. A strategy or a tactic that has worked yesterday, may not work today. At one time, the Onida Devil worked wonders for the brand. But after a few years of uninterrupted presence, the magic of the devil began to fade – the devil had outlived his utility. So campaigns are time-sensitive. The problem is that it is often difficult to discard a once-successful campaign because it has either lost its relevance or it has lost its charisma. Again, to recognise that a campaign will not work anymore is easier said than done. Marketers must develop a keen perception of the market mood, trends and patterns. That allows them to be open to change and flexibility. (Incidentally, Onida has recently brought back the devil in a new avatar. What it does to Onida’s fortunes remains to be seen.)

FLEXIBILTY really comes from acknowledging that marketing is a social activity that depends on many societal factors. Change is in the nature of all human beings. Everything changes over time – consumer’s preferences, buying behaviour and spending habits. Good marketers have a built-in contingency plan in the marketing programme to deal with any unpredictable or unseen changes in the marketplace.

PASSION of those working on the campaign may not be recognised as a necessary element of marketing programme; nevertheless, the lack of it can lead to a lacklustre campaign. Passion is required to come up with creative and original ideas that work. Passion is required to intuitively understand the ever-changing marketplace. If insight, analysis, planning and focus are the blood, passion is the oxygen of marketing. Srivastava says, “Marketing programmes need to be driven with the passion and zeal of a crusader. They must be created by, and in turn create, believers of the brand. This calls for honesty, commitment, passion and a relentless pursuit of the cause – the consumer’s cause.”

When we falter…

So what happens when we lose track of these basic principles? Let’s consider an example of a failed marketing campaign. The Maruti Versa launch campaign unleashed last year, failed, in spite of Amitabh Bachchan endorsing the brand. The big B factor worked to the extent that it brought prospective consumers to the showroom. But the product disappointed them. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the product or with AB’s endorsement of the brand; it was the positioning that went wrong. Because of AB’s presence, the consumers expected a larger-than-life kind of a product. But what they saw was a small wagon-type family car – there was a mismatch between product expectation and delivery. “The inability to grasp the real communication challenge is at the core of all failures,” says Misra. In this case, the communication challenge was finally met, when Maruti launched another campaign, this time showcasing it as the family.

What happens when we fail to obtain consumer insight? Lulla believes that when the campaign is not based on insight, it will not resonate with the consumer. “You may have a great looking campaign that may grab attention but might not achieve much after. It is not just about getting noticed; it is about being effective and creating the desired impact.” Srivastava adds, “Most brands in most categories settle into a state of mediocrity with no real differentiators and no genuine effort to create them. There is helplessness and far too ready an acceptance of the status quo, resulting in an over reliance on ‘an advertising idea’ to pull the brand through. Even this, where the brands have one, is confined in its expression to a typical mass media campaign. There is little follow through, poor support and negligible activation programmes that drive the idea and take it forward. In some cases, the idea itself is sacrificed with a premature change of the campaign; driven by a change of the marketing team or the agency.”

A few years ago, after the tremendous success of CeaseFire fire portable extinguishers, the company (Real Value) launched another innovative product – vacuumised containers. The product bombed, in spite of bigger ad spends and massive advertising on TV. There was no real demand of the product in the Indian market. Lack of planning causes marketing’s effectiveness to diminish. This happens because without proper planning, there is no way to determine deviations from the path and consequently no way to take corrective action if/when it is required. “One of the key reasons of ineffectiveness of marketing is inadequate homework – about the consumer, the way she or he is changing, and about one’s competitors and their strategies,” says DeSouza. Indeed, for look at what inadequate homework did to one oil company in Australia, which spent three million dollars on a TV advertising campaign only to find that 60 per cent of the target audience thought the ad was from the competitor. So in effect the company spent three million on advertising for their competitor. Proper planning might have prevented this unfortunate loss.

Wrapping up

A marketing campaign, however glamorous or expensive, does not yield the desired results, then it not marketing at all. We have all seen some heavily criticised marketing efforts yielding good results for the brand (Dandi Salt). We also know about high-profile and much-written-about marketing campaigns that have failed to push up brand sales (HomeTrade.com). In the end, the measure of marketing effectiveness lies in brand sales. Nothing else counts.

And effective marketing, as we have discussed above, is a process of planning and executing strategies with clearly defined goals, in a sustained and flexible manner, using relevant consumer insight. Provided that we stick to these basic principles, and do not lose sight of the ultimate objective of increasing sales, we will succeed in our goal of attracting, retaining or converting consumers. As Sherlock Holmes would say to his friend and confidante: “Elementary”.

The author expresses his thanks to the following experts for their views:

  • Pranesh Misra, President and Chief Operating Officer, Lowe India
  • Lynn DeSouza, Director of Media Services, Lintas India Group
  • Sunil Lulla, Executive Vice President, Sony Entertainment Television
  • Rohit Srivastava, National Planning Director, Contract Advertising
A March for Peace

A March for Peace

"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth," said Albert Einstein about one of the most inspiring and influential men of the twentieth century. Yes, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly known as the father of our nation, was loved and respected by the world’s most respected individuals. And yet today, amidst attacks on the Mahatma’s personal life and his relationship with his children, many among us are forgetting his contribution to India’s freedom struggle in specific and to humankind in general. Therefore it was heartening to see students, parents and teachers along with peace loving residents, participating in such large numbers to remember and honour Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of peace, truth, love, non-violence and justice.

On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti last week, almost 550 people counting 450 children from seven different schools in the city (including a tribal school in Yeoor) walked on the streets of Thane to remember the values that Mahatma Gandhi stood for. This was the fifth consecutive year of Shanti Yatra (or peace march). What started as a celebration of the apostle of peace by Garden School of Thane four years ago has now become an important event with several city-based NGOs actively participating to remind us the powerful ideas of Mahatma Gandhi.

The peach march began from St John the Baptist High School at Jambli Naka and terminated at the bust of Mahatma Gandhi on Shivaji Path covering prominent city roads like Ghantali and Gokhale Road. True to its name, the peace march was peaceful and no one was shouting slogans. Instead, the marchers were carrying placards with Gandhi’s core ideas and messages written on them.

The shanti yatra began as an inter-religious effort but the focus has now shifted to children. The idea behind the event is to familiarise children of today with the values that the Mahatma stood for. Bernadette Pimenta, Garden School’s founder-principal says, "The children of today are so lost that they need a role model like Mahatma Gandhi. This peace march is an effort to instil in our children the love and respect for the father of the nation."

Last year, Tushar Gandhi and Medha Patkar had participated in the Shanti Yatra. This year, the chief guest was Dr Dalvi, former principal of Dnyansadhana College, who spoke about Mahatma’s life and his contribution to India. A little boy from Majiwada School gave a speech on the father of the nation and later bhajans of Gandhi were sung.

Bapu, as children affectionately call him, once said, "Every murder or other injury, no matter for what cause, committed or inflicted on another is a crime against humanity." With widespread violence, terrorism and wars threatening to consume our planet, it is perhaps now more than ever before, that we need to remember the values of the Mahatma.

Net Assets

Net Assets

If there’s one old economy sector that has undergone a complete transformation completely in the past few years, it is without doubt the Banking Sector. Take online Banking. Where earlier, just to withdraw some cash you had to wait for what seemed like an eternity just to withdraw some cash, you can visit your net-banking website today, log on to your account using a secure gateway and accomplish a number of transactions online, minus the long queues! Online banking is akin to a revolution. It has been hailed by many as the second greatest boon of the Internet, after email. And not without reason, considering that the extent of flexibility, convenience, speed and control it offers to the consumers was unconceivable even a few years ago. Many feel that online banking is the way forward for both financial institutions and customers alike and consequently this method of money management is continually gaining popularity and credibility.

So what’s so great about online banking? Lots. For one, with Internet banking, you can do everything that you can do at a traditional brick-and-mortar branch, only more conveniently. For another, it has completely changed the way we carry out our banking transactions. Today you can pay bills, download up-to-the-last-minute statements, transfer funds, pay for stuff, and even apply for loans, all from your desktop at any time of the day (or night!).

If you transact with the traditional open-four-hours-a-day type of a bank, consider this: In the middle of the night, you get an urge to find out the status of a certain important cheque that you have issued/deposited, you have no option but to wait for the next morning to find out. But, online banking is accessible 24/7. At time of the day, you have to simply log on to your bank account midnight and find out the status of that all-important cheque. Similarly, if you remember that you must pay your credit card bills just minutes before the due date expires, there is little you can do except for paying the penalty, unless you bank online and make that payment at 11.50 pm!

But in spite of these great benefits, there are many who are shy of banking in the web. The two major issues that prevent people from banking on the internet are security or safety concern and technology readiness.

How safe is online banking?
Before considering how secure online banking is, think about how secure your current payment methods are. If you write a check, use your credit card over the phone, carry it with you when you leave you your home, or use it at a restaurant, you have taken a financial risk much greater than online banking. With a check, the cashier, store managers, and check processing representative not only can get your name but also you bank account number. A credit card carries less risk but giving it over the phone to an unknown person, or to a waiter, who could easily copy down the information before returning it to you, also carries more risk then online banking. With online banking the information is not available to anyone but you and your bank, and online banks use passwords, encryption, and firewall security measures to protect your account. This is more security then you have when using traditional checks or credit cards.

Nevertheless, there are some risks associated with online banking too and it is better to be safe than sorry. Never store your online-banking account details and password in a place which can be accesses by someone. It’s advisable to store it in memory and keep changing the password occasionally. Also keep cryptic passwords, which are not easy to guess. For God’s sake, please do not store your birth date or anniversary or even your children’s birthdays as passwords. Try to have a combination of characters and numbers.

Worried about technology?
Many people are scared of using online banking because technology intimidates them or because they don’t want to learn new ways of doing old things. If you are one of them, I earnestly suggest that you spare some time and make a serious attempt to use this method of banking. Online banking helps you become more of a banker, running your accounts like a small business that you control every day. Once you get started, you’ll be hooked. Soon enough you’ll be checking your bank account as often as your e-mail. The Internet, and the technology that powers online banking, are both very user friendly. Try it – you will never have to worry about a bank holiday then.

How do I get an online banking account?
To utilise online banking services you need a PC with Internet access and either a bank account with a traditional bank that offers online banking, or an account with an Internet-only bank. Those interested in online banking should make enquiries with their usual bank. There are many useful resources online to help you do this and which provide a listing of links to many banks that offer online banking. You can then access the banks’ details and view information regarding the services that they offer and their terms and conditions for opening an account.

Envirovigil: A Green Organisation

Envirovigil: A Green Organisation

Thane-based Enviro-Vigil, also known in Marathi as Pariyavaran Dakshta Manch, is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the cause of environment protection. They have initiated various innovative projects since it was informally set up about five years ago, when a few good men from Thane decided to come together to do something about the increasing threat to our environment. Today, Enviro-vision (E-V) works in the areas of environmental education, water management, rain water harvesting, recycling, forest conservation, bio-medical waste, waste management, and organic farming.

"It all started in 1993, when I was conducted a few seminars on the traffic situation in Thane. I invited people to share their ideas to improve Thane traffic situation and received 170 suggestions in response," says Professor Vidyadhar Walawarkar, one of the trustees of E-V. Later in 1998, after the road-widening project took off, Walawarkar undertook an extensive survey to study the problems of heavy traffic congestion on the major city roads and heavy pollution thus created by these vehicles. This project not only studied the problems but also suggested definite, scientific, and concrete solutions to those problems. The project report revealed that in five years, from 1993 to 1998, the number of vehicles in Thane grew six times! With the help of Dr N T Joshi, a former member of the Pollution Control Board, Walawarkar compiled a book based on the findings of the survey which was presented to K P Bakshi, the then Commissioner of Thane Municipal Corporation. So impressed was Bakshi with E-V’s work that he suggested the NGO take up another, more difficult problem of dealing with bio-medical waste.

The nature of the waste generated in the hospitals and clinics is different than the waste generated in other establishments – it contains toxic and hazardous substances including pathological waste, disposable plastic items and metal sharps (injection needles, knives etc). Many of these substances and items are contaminated can pose serious threat if left unattended. Dr Vikar Hajirnis, current president of E-V, says, "Bio-medical waste has to be handled and disposed of scientifically, especially since the laws governing bio-medical waste management are rather stringent." Since no information was available on the quantum of such waste generated, E-V began by surveying the hospitals in Thane. Then, they trained hospital staff to segregate the waste into septic and aseptic, at source. Today, E-V manages bio-medical of more than 500 hospitals in Thane, Mira Road, Bhayander, Vasai and Virar. Special vehicles collect the waste, which is later shredded or incinerated according to its type. Special equipments, like a three-chamber incinerator, have been installed to treat the toxic bio-medical waste.

At any given time, E-V has a no. of ongoing projects. For instance, E-V is trying to save a human made forest situated on the outskirts of Thane city at Gavali Dev, behind the now shut NOCIL factory. The forest project which NOCIL and BAIF initiated by planting 150 lakh seedlings, had been abandoned after NOCIL’s closure. E-V has trained 2000 patients at Thane mental hospital to make paper bags which can used to replace plastic bags. E-V sells these bags to encourage the use of paper bags. The money earned is returned to the hospital either in cash or kind. E-V’s school of environment in Thane has 40 students, who learn all about the environment and how to conserve it. E-V encourages youngsters to take up "green careers" – those who love the environment can actually spend their time close to it and also earn money. E-V is also setting up "Institute of Waste Management" in New Mumbai which will begin courses in January and will be the first such institute to impart formal training in waste management. E-V also publishes Aaple Pariyavaran, a monthly Marathi magazine that creates awareness about environment. Every year during monsoons, E-V works actively to channel the rain water for effective use. Last year, rain water harvesting was carried out in 22 buildings in and around Vasant Vihar. This year, they are planning to channel water into 800 tube wells – a really large project.
E-V has many more projects in pipeline, all at various stages of development, and all with only one objective – to save the Earth from monsters such pollution, toxic waste et al. You may contact E-V on 25400012.

Sevadham: Inter-faith power

Sevadham: Inter-faith power

Since its inception in November 30, 1991, city-based NGO Sevadham has been organising programmes for the welfare of the poor, marginalised and deprived women and children. Its first project was a healthcare centre, which today operates independently, as do many other projects initiated by Sevadham in the past decade or so. The organisation works, or has worked, for the welfare of tribal children, convicted women serving a prison sentence, street children, and many such other neglected segments of the society.

Sevadham was founded as an inter-religious group with an underlying philosophy of mutual respect and appreciation for all faiths. Tabbassum Sheikh, Late Francis Linhares, Abraham Menezes, Shamshuddin Sheikh, Sudha Bhave, Veda Rebello, Marcus Alvares and Dominic Pereira were among the founding the members of the group. To underline the inter-faith belief, Sevadham organises three to four meetings every year to promote respect for all religions. These meetings are held on special days like festivals and important holidays and take place in worship houses of various faiths: a Hindu Temple, a Jewish Synagogue, a Sikh Gurudwara, and so on.

Among the various projects that Sevadham initiates periodically, those that deserve special mention are welfare of women convicts and development of tribal people. Sevadham reaches out to women in Jails of Thane, Kalyan, Nasik, Byculla and Pune. It organises educational workshops, provides legal intervention where needed, offers counselling to depression cases and regularly distributes old clothes to serving a jail sentence. "Recently we have begun a "Beauty Culture" course for women convicts, which trains them in basic beauty skills and certifies them so that they can use these skills to earn a livelihood after completion of their sentence," said Bernadette Pimenta, an active social worker and one of the founding trustees of Sevadham. The group also endeavours to rehabilitate many such women, although they admit it is a difficult task. Each year, Sevadham also celebrated Women’s Day in the prisons.

For tribal children, Sevadham organises food supplies (meals), educational programmes and developmental activities such as excursions to various places in the city and beyond. Recently, Sevadham helped a tribal boy get admission in class six in Thane’s MH School, a first-of-its- kind achievement for the NGO.

Sevadham keeps its financial requirements to the minimum and that is usually fulfilled by friends and well-wishers of the trustees. It networks closely with many other NGOs and social units such as Karuna Kendra, Bhartiya Mahila Federation, Joint Action Awareness Group (Jaag), Commission for Inter-religious dialogue, Justice and peace commission, and the women cell of Thane Police. They are helping AGNI to open its office in Thane.

Along with this network, Sevadham conducts various socially relevant programmes. For instance, street children project was started along with Father Degama and NGO Aasara. The project, which involved identifying street children and providing them with education, food and shelter, is independent. Today, there are several homes for street children. Another endeavour of Sevadham is the pro-life programme, which is conducted in various schools to spread awareness about AIDS, prevent chemical dependency (drug abuse) and deal with other issues that affect young people.
What’s next? Sevadham will continue to serve the deprived and the marginalised. For instance, it is planning to work in the remand homes for the welfare of juvenile delinquents. Starting July, every third Saturday of the month, Sevadham will organise healing sessions in Thane Mental Hospital which will use play therapy and music therapy to comfort and heal mentally disoriented people. "Soon, we also plan to start a Day-Care centre for the mentally challenged people," Pimenta added. The list of Sevadham’s social projects is endless and so is the compassion of its volunteers.